Time Out Barcelona’s eating, drinking and nightlife editor, Ricard Martin, shares his ultimate guide to the city
A is for airport. Barcelona is among the top ten most-visited cities in the world. And 40 million people pass through El Prat airport every year.
B is for beach . If you come to Barcelona, the beach is compulsory. Take your towel to the Sant Sebastià strip, just a short walk around the marina from Soho House.
C is for cycling. Bike tours are a quick and cool way to get to know the city. Rent a cycle for just €6 for two hours at Born Bikes. Please, though, don’t hop on a Segway – you’ll stop being a visitor, and instantly become a “guiri” (as the locals call tourists).
D is for devilishly good coffee . Satan’s Coffee Corner is the place to say “hell, yeah” to the best coffee in the city, and the perfect base from which to explore the stunning Gothic Quarter.
E is for Eixample. At the end of 19th century, architect Ildefons Cerdà began work on the Eixample neighbourhood, following a strict grid pattern, with long, straight streets, which has become a hallmark of the city. Drop in to one of the trendy brunch places in the east, then stroll down the gorgeous Passeig de Sant Joan afterwards.
F is for fork. The ‘esmorzar de forquilla’ (literally ‘fork breakfast’) comprises traditional Catalan stews, such as cod with peppers and tomatoes. Grab yours at La Pubilla de Gràcia.
G is for Gràcia. This sleepy neighbourhood – full of pleasant squares and picturesque streets – was only annexed to Barcelona in 1897.
H is for hipsters. Yep – Barcelona has them too. Showy tattoos, topknots and tight Bermuda shorts are having their heyday in the city.
I is for indie . Every summer, Barcelona becomes the centre of the indie music universe, as pioneering fest Primavera Sound overlaps with vast electronic music gathering Sónar. It’s a muso’s paradise.
J is for juice. Barcelona’s residents like to cure their hangovers with cold-pressed juices. If you can stagger there, Teresa’s Juicery at Flax & Kale by Plaça Universitat is recommended.
K is for kilometres. Many restaurants in Barcelona are taking “locally sourced” to the next level by ensuring that none of their ingredients arrive from over 150km away. Sergi de Meià, in Eixample, is the best of the bunch.
L is for language. Though Spanish is widely spoken, Catalan is the official language of Barcelona. The politics of the region’s relationship with the rest of Spain are complex, but luckily the locals aren’t too fussy: if you’re able to utter something (anything) in Catalan they’ll be happy.
M is for modernism. The city’s modernist architecture has to be seen to be believed. Park Güell, Sagrada Familia and Casa Milà are all must-see marvels – if you can spot them through a sea of selfie sticks.
N is for noise. Think that New York is the city that never sleeps? The law allows street noise in Barcelona to reach 75 decibels – a notch or two above what the World Health Organisation recommends is safe. Thankfully, Soho House is in a quieter part of the city centre.
O is for opera. Barcelona’s stunning opera house, El Liceu, is a testament to the city’s determination. Erected in 1847, it was bombed in 1862 and burned to the ground twice (in 1861 and 1994).
P is for Paral·lel. Ferran Adrià, of El Bulli fame, and his brother Albert have turned Paral·lel Avenue into an emporium for Michelin-starred food, having opened three restaurants of stellar quality: Hoja Santa (serving Mexican), Tickets (showing the evolution of tapas) and Pakta (for Peruvian).
Q is for quinoa. Barcelona’s green-eating scene will take you from kitschy dining rooms lost in the ’80s (L’Hortet in Raval) to the lap of luxury (Green Spot by Barceloneta station) to a comforting spot for top home-cooking (Rasoterra in the Gothic Quarter).
R is for Raval. Instead of roaming La Rambla (please, don’t ever sit at one of its terraced bars) turn the corner, westward, and visit authentic, old-school El Raval – a buzzing borough once infamous for its crime and cabarets.
S is for Sant Pau del Camp. A gem in the heart of the Raval: Sant Pau del Camp is a Romanesque church offering a tiny slice of medieval, monastic peace.
T is for techno. Pounding beats are everywhere after-hours. Just pick the club that matches your scene: underground avant-garde (Nitsa, Moog), velvety house (Opium, Pacha) or smouldering R&B (Shoko).
U is for unicorn. You’ll find this horny guy at The Fairy Forest – the Wax Museum’s beguiling tavern. Downing a few pints beforehand is recommended.
V is for vermouth. Sampling an artisanal vermouth is a weekend ritual for Barcelona’s monied youngsters. The Sant Antoni district, in Eixample, is their church on Sundays.
W is for wine. Catalan wines took off strongly years ago. Check out Monvínic in Dreta de l’Eixample – a wine bar and cutting-edge restaurant, with a 2,700 bottle-strong wine library to browse.
X is for X-rated . When videotaped porn ruled Spain, Barcelona was the industry’s sleazy capital. This glorious, and sticky, past is remembered by the survival of Bagdad, in Raval – a party hall famous all over Europe for its hardcore sex shows.
Y is for Yelmo. English-language film programming is hard to come by. But this cinema, just behind Barceloneta beach, has been showing original versions of English and American films for 20 years.
Z is for Zona. Franca One last suggestion: in Zona Franca, Barcelona’s most isolated district, you’ll find Granja Elena bar: a hidden gem that could go toe-to-toe with any Michelin-starred place. You’re welcome.